Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

November 18, 2021
THS volleyball team coming together under new coach

As fall high school sports give way to winter sports, it is a great time to reflect on the fall seasons and celebrate the athletes and coaches who worked so hard to hone their skills and better their games. At Tooele High School, a new volleyball coaching staff, led by head coach Dan Eskelson, took the reins of the program after longtime coach Kristi Brown retired from the position last spring. As the new year opened with new players, new coaches and a new 5A classification, Coach Eskelson and the Buffs looked to navigate a brave new world together.

Eskelson, who was named head coach in April, quickly set about assembling his coaching staff that includes Tenneal Chlarson, JV coach; Mary Burton, sophomore coach; and Christina Ashby, freshmen coach. Eskelson and his staff worked with their new team in the spring and over the summer to get to know each other and establish goals and expectations.

“It’s been a great first year,” Eskelson shared. “When we met and worked on setting expectations, it was a bit challenging. We had a new coaching staff, a new team (six seniors graduated and only one returning player had varsity experience), and a new classification, 5A.”

“It’s nice to get our first year together in 5A under our belts and see where we fall,” he summarized.

“I feel that we met our expectations. It was tricky with no history in 5A to set a goal with three new teams in our region: Payson, Hillcrest and Cottonwood. We targeted placing in the top two in Region and just missed it by losing our final region game to Hillcrest in five sets,” he continued.

Eskelson was very pleased with his team’s play in region matches. “It was very tight. By losing that last game, we went from a tie for first to fourth. We beat Hillcrest three of the four times we met them this year, but that last game didn’t go our way.”

Speaking on county and region rival Stansbury, he pointed out, “We split with Stansbury, each of us winning on the other’s home court. In our final match, it went five games. We served 90% and Stansbury was at 92%. I’d say that was the difference the second time we played.”

Although the Buffs lost in their playoff game at Alta, the game went to five sets, and “the girls gave it their all,” Eskelson determined. “This season we split or won against all of the teams in our region except Cedar Valley. The future looks good for Tooele volleyball in our region next year. Cedar Valley will graduate their two dominant seniors, and we matched up well against the rest of the teams.”

“The girls worked hard and played hard all season,” he complimented. “As a coach I am most proud of the way our team came together to play as one. The girls learned to communicate well and to give each other confidence. As they played as a team, fulfilled their assignments, and trusted others to do their assignments, the wins came easier. They grew as a team. I’m so proud of their growth and composure on the court.”

Now that Eskelson and his staff have finished their first year in 5A, they have worked with the team to set a new goal for next season: to finish in the top 16 teams in 5A and secure a home playoff game.

“5A is huge,” Coach Eskelson explained. “There are 33 teams and the top 10 teams are tough. As we watched the state championship games at UVU a few weeks ago, I realized that there is still a curve between the teams in the top half of 5A and the bottom half. We are going to continue to learn to compete in 5A and work toward that home court for the playoffs next year.”

Eskelson is excited to have a full off-season to work with his players. “We had a great year and our JV played so well. They had a great season, and I have high hopes for the players who are coming up through the program.” He hopes to see a lot of girls playing club volleyball in the offseason and highly recommends players who are interested in developing their skills check out the Tooele Club Volleyball program that Coach Chlarson is running.

As Eskelson works with his team in the off-season, he will continue to stress the importance of communication and coming together as a team. He is a “huge proponent of teams playing in unison rather than random parts. “As a coach, I feel that it is important for a player to understand her task as well as the task of the people around you. If you know what you are going to do and what your assignment is, it will help you communicate better with your teammates, if you understand their roles as well,” he philosophized.

“Communication is critical to success as a team, and miscommunication often happens when players don’t understand their roles in relation to others,” he emphasized. “When everyone moves together as a team by playing their individual roles and supporting each other, there will be success.”

Eskelson knows about hard work and how to find success as a volleyball player. Growing up in the West Valley/Magna area, he started playing volleyball at Hunter Junior High before attending and graduating from Cyprus High. Throughout high school, Eskelson played club volleyball, then called Junior Olympic, with the Twin Peaks Club. After graduation, he attended the University of Utah and played on their club team for one year.

In 2009, Eskelson and his wife of 15 years, Rachel, along with their four children–Kate, Spencer, Eliza and Addy Jo–moved to Stansbury. They’ve been in the same area for 12 years and enjoy living in the Tooele Valley. In addition to his coaching duties, Eskelson works as the Head of the Insurance Department for Homie of Utah.

“It will be great to go into next season knowing what to expect in 5A,” he concluded. “We will lose some experienced seniors to graduation this year, but we will continue to build our team while stressing the importance of conditioning, teamwork, and coming together. We will work toward our goal of a home playoff game next fall. It’s an exciting time to be coaching and playing volleyball at Tooele High.”

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